Looks like we’re back to intimidating journalists

Looks like we’re back to intimidating journalists
By Zan Azlee

I didn’t think the day when the press and media would start getting oppressed and intimidated by the government would ever come again. But I guess I was naive after the May 2018 general election happened when I thought that Malaysia has progressed.

Things were actually getting much better for the media and for freedom of speech post-May 2018. Journalists were being braver in their reporting, commentators were being critical to both sides and no one was being called up for investigation and no raids were being done on newsrooms.

As a working journalist, I was very happy with how things were turning out. I have had friends being arrested and colleagues whose offices were raided and their equipment confiscated before. I can tell you, it isn’t much fun.

Personally, I have never been called up to be questioned or anything like that and I thank god for that. Sometimes I joke that I just don’t have the street cred that some of my other journalist friends have because I have never really gotten in trouble with the authorities. Funny joke, huh?

Hey, in my defence, I have been detained and questioned many times in war zones such as Afghanistan and Lebanon. So there! I’m a macho journalist too, okay? But jokes aside, journalists should not have to go through harassment just to do their jobs.

Ever since the Sheraton Move in March, it looks like things are going back to the way they were prior to May 2018. Basically, we are regressing and the many incidents that indicate this could reach a tipping point to push us off the cliff.

Many public figures, civil society organisations and media organisations have condemned these incidents because they go against everything that represents freedom of speech. I can go on and on explaining how the situation is detrimental to democracy but I think everyone is already familiar.

This is the same form of intimidation that the old horses used to bring down journalists and the media. Although it wasn’t that long ago and journalists in Malaysia are already used to that form of intimidation. But it isn’t something we should be subjected too.

I am afraid that this will cause journalists and the media to start self-censoring when they speak or ask questions. I am also afraid that this becomes a demotivating element for everything that we have fought for all this while.

There is nothing much that I can say that others have not said before and neither is there anything I can do that others have not done. But I am still going to say it and I am still going to do it.

I will continue to voice out and criticise when I feel it is needed. I will still call out injustice when I see it. Basically, I will continue to be working as a journalist as I have always been, and I will stand on the side of journalists and in solidarity.

Whatever it is, we need to stand up and fight for what we think is right. Oh well, it looks like I might still have the opportunity to build on my street cred. I guess I should have been more careful about what I joke about, huh?

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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